Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

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Anyone who has ever been sexually active may have the Human Papillomavirus1. Both men and women can contract the virus with certain types of HPV causing genital warts or cancer2.

These types of HPV can spread through direct skin to skin contact during all types of sexual activity with anyone who has the HPV virus1-3. It is a very common infection with four out of five people contracting the virus at some point in their lives.

HPV itself cannot be treated, however, 70-90% of HPV cases naturally resolve within 3 years3.

Australia is the first country to develop a vaccine to protect women from strains of HPV that cause about 70% of cervical cancer3. Vaccination is recommended for females aged 13 to 26 years. Currently the School Based Vaccination Program offers free HPV vaccination for girls in year 8.

HPV Facts1-5

There are over 100 strains of HPV that affect different parts of the body and of the 40 genital HPV types, 15 are classified as high risk types.

There is no treatment for HPV itself but there is treatment available for abnormalities caused by HPV infection. Your doctor can advise you on the best treatment for your situation.

Signs
  • HPV can go undetected or dormant for years
  • visible warts on genitals (men and women)
  • concealed warts inside the vagina, cervix or anal canal.
  • changes in the cells of the cervix (detected on pap smears)
Transmission
  • direct contact with infected skin or mucosal surface
  • sexual contact (genital HPV types)
  • to infants during birth (rare)
  • laryngeal infection (rare)
Health outcomes by some strains
  • genital warts (male and female)
  • penile and anal cancer (very rare)
  • cervical cancer (high risk types such as HPV types 16 and 18)
  • laryngeal infection (rare)
Treatment
  • HPV itself cannot be treated
  • only the abnormalities caused by HPV infection can be treated
  • genital warts may go away without treatment (not recommended)
  • see your doctor for diagnosis and appropriate treatment (highly recommended)
Prevention
  • Regular pap smears will reveal the presence of HPV and appropriate medical treatment can be provided
  • Safe sex (barrier contraception eg condom) to reduce the risk of infection from skin to skin contact
  • Vaccines — “GARDASIL” recommended for females aged 12-26 years

Useful links

  • The Queensland Health website provides sexual health, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis information and resources for the community, health professionals and educators.
  • Watch the Youtube video on HPV vaccine for females and protection against cervical cancer.

References

1. Queensland Health. Healthier Queensland: human papilloma virus. 2011. cited March 2011. Available from: www.healthier.qld.gov.au
2. Australian government department of health and aging. Human papillomavirus. 2011. Cited 2011 March. Available from: www.immunise.health.gov.au/internet/immunise/publishing.nsf/Content/immunise-hpv
3. Wain G. HPV vaccines and the Australian human papillomavirus vaccination program. Cancer forum [online] 2008 [cited March 2011]; 32(2):
4. National centre for immunisation, research and surveillance. Human papillomavirus. 2013. Cited 2013 Jul. Available from: http://www.ncirs.edu.au/assets/provider_resources/fact-sheets/human-papillomavirus-hpv-fact-sheet.pdf  
5. Center for disease control and prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases (STD: HPV and men. 2010. cited 2011 Mar. Available from: www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv-and-men.htm

This article is compiled by Maria Burgess in partnership between Student Wellbeing and PUB352 Pubic Health Project for the USC Health and Wellbeing Project.

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